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Justine Shapiro
Justine Shapiro in Argentina
Globe Trekker Web site
WETA Web site
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'Globe Trekker': South Africa
With Justine Shapiro
Program Host

Thursday, May 22, 2003; 2 p.m. ET

Meeting Australia's aborigines, taking a safari ride in South Africa, riding camelback through Pakistan's Cholistan desert and exploring the streets of Havana are among the exciting adventures in this season's "Globe Trekker" series. An hour-long travel program from WETA Washington, D.C. and Pilot Productions, "Globe Trekker" viewers journey with nine solo travelers to explore the cultures and the environment of various countries.

Program host Justine Shapiro, will be online Thursday, May 22 at 2 p.m. ET, to discuss her travel experiences in South Africa and the new series.

Shapiro has traveled extensively with the "Globe Trekker" series -- Argentina, Australia, the Caribbean, China, the Czech Republic, the Galapagos Islands, Europe, India and southeast Asia.

Her independent documentary film "Promises," featuring personal stories of Israeli and Palestinian children in Jerusalem, won international film awards. The film also was nominated for a 2002 Academy Award for best documentary and won News and Documentary Emmys for best documentary and for outstanding background analysis. Her documentary projects include "Voices from the Storm" about Gulf War veterans and IDG Film's "Nagasaki Journey."

She has also been cast in several television and movies such as "I'll Do Anything," "Storyville" (20th Century Fox), "Floodtide" (Granada Television), "SeaQuest DSV" (Amblin Entertainment) and "A Case for Murder" (USA Cable).

The new season of "Globe Trekker" airs every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on WETA Washington, D.C. Check WETA for a complete listing of airdates and times on other PBS stations across the country.

The transcript follows below.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Glasgow, Scotland: Hi Justine! I really enjoy Globe Trekker which shows several times a day here in the UK. I was wondering how long you get to spend in a particular place doing a particular show and if you have time between filming to actually relax and soak up the atmosphere? How do you find globe trekking fits in with your ordinary life and family?

Justine Shapiro: Thanks for being online with me today. Generally shows take about 24 days to shoot. In the old days when I first started (back in 1994) the shoots took about a month. As far as time off and relaxing... I would say that in the 25 shows that I've done I've had about 3 half days off. We just don't stop. We need to cover an incredibly large area very quickly so we start with sun up at dawn and shoot until dark and then we are on the road to the next location. We rarely sleep in one location for more than 2 nights. GLobe Trekking fit into my life until I had a baby boy 2 years ago. You may have noticed that since Germany I haven't done any GLobe Trekkers but now that my son is a bit older I'm planning to go out on the Globe Trekker road again this summer.

New York, N.Y.: Hi Justine,

How much research and planning do you when going to a particular place? What I love about the show is that it isn't overly scripted.

Also, what's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

Justine Shapiro: THe Production office is based in London and this is where the research takes place about 3 months prior to the actual shoot. Locations are determined by a number of factors namely when and where the most important festivals are taking place as well as optimal weather conditions. One of hte reasons that I love doing GT and why I continue to do them is precisely b/c the show isn't overscripted... in fact it isn't scripted at all. I write what I say on=camera and much of it is impromptu. Keep inmind that we are shooting on video so I say a lot of stupid things that just don't make the final cut (thank good ness there are good editors on the show).

The strangest thing I've ever eaten are live Jumiles, which are beetles, in Mexico.

Bunea Park, Calif.: Re: Taking a tour in S. Africa
With so many tour operators to choose from would you suggest making arrangements with one of them before you arrive in S. Africa or do you think you can bargan a better price when you arrive? I prefer smaller more intimate groups that don't make you feel like your cattle. I know the smaller the group the higher the price can be so that's why I wondered about waiting till your there.

Justine Shapiro: To answer a number of questions about SOUTH AFRICA. In general I think it is wise to book tours once you are inside the country. THis way you can better assess the quality of the company and you are much more likely to get a better rate. Please think carefully about who you give your money to. Try and choose tours where the locals are involved.

Like many countries around the world, there is crime in South Africa. No one can tell you that any place on the planet is 100% safe. My sense is that if you go to South Africa you will absolutely fall in love with this country and the people and the landscape. But there are cities and areas within cities where everyone takes precautions... particularly in Johannesburg.

New York, N.Y.: Do you write all the narration for each show? If not, how involved are you with the writing process?

Erik R. Trinidad (big fan)

Justine Shapiro: the nature of the show is that it is unscripted. British production companies are different to the production companies in the US in that they trust that their on-camera presenters can put quesitons and phrases together without constant hand holding. Globe Trekker is a distinctly British produced show in this regard. The producers and the Exec. Producer Ian Cross has a great deal of faith in the teams he sends out. I write my on-camera language or I just blurt stuff out without writing and hope the editors choose to use th ebest stuff. The VO narration is crafted by the producer or the director and sent to me and I work on it with them until I feel that the narration works and then we record it.

San Jose, Calif.:
It is nice to have program like yours. Even though I don't travel often, I do like travelling. Do you have a mailing list of where you are going to visit next time? Or your group, like Ian or Megan..., going to visit next time? I would like to subscribe such mailing list. I might have question for your guys.

Justine Shapiro: Hi, I think that if you check with www. globetrekkertv.com you will find constant updates.
thanks for your interest!

Sterling, VA: Congratulations on your Academy Award nomination for "Promises" last year. I helping to run a film series for a fairly progressive local Islamic Center in the Northern Virginia area. I would very much like to show "Promises" and have you come in and speak with the audience. My goal is to present thoughtul films that encourage the audience to understand that while we are diverse religions and ethnicities, we are all human beings with similar feelings and emotions. Would you be available to come and screen the film with us and speak to us? I'm not sure how much of a budget we have (if we have one at all) for this project, but I thought I would just find out if this was even possible. Thanks.

Justine Shapiro: absolutely. please send an email to our office:
and in the subject heading write: screening request for Justine and our office manager will send you all the details.
I would be delighted to attend if our schedules permit.
thank you.

Washington, D.C. traveler: Hi Ms. Shapiro!

I've watched you many times on the Travel Channel, and am happy to get the chance to ask you a question. I was wondering, how has the current state of world terrorism and world security measures affected your travels? Is there anywhere you won't travel now that you would several years ago? What kinds of measures do you take to ensure you are safe?


Justine Shapiro: great question. I think that now more than ever most Americans perceive that the world is a violent dangerous and forbidding place. I have travelled so much and know from experience that the news headlines are just one small dimension of the actual story. I think that acts of war and acts of terror are just different means by which innocent civilians get killed. I think that the current political climate is creating a sense of "us" and "them" which is a picture that I just don't buy into. I want to travel to more Arab speaking countries so that I can export the images of the majority of Arab peoples, their manner and their customs and their incredibly rich culture... they are the most hospitable people on the planet and the vast majority of Arabs condemn violence and acts such as 9/11. The truth is that most people all want the same thing which is a peaceful, safe future for their children. I don't think too much about safety when I travel unless I'm going into an active war zone, which I don't do as a rule. I would travel almost anywhere so long as there isn't full scale war.

Arlington, Va.: where is ian wright these days?

does your crew stay in hostels and eat the same food as you? or do they get the posh hotel down the street with hot showers and where you don't have to clean the hostel when you are done a la new mexico (or was it arizona?)

Justine Shapiro: the crew and me. we are a team all the way from the beginning to the end. There are just 5 of us on the crew and we do (almost) everything together.

Reston, Va.: You're probably on your feet all day, so do you have a tried-and-true pair of shoes? which brand do you recommend for women?

Justine Shapiro: I wear Timberland boots and Mephisto sandals... but I'm open to change.

Montclair, VA: How big a crew do you take with you when do a Trek show? Whenever I watch travel programs, especially those highlighting single travelers riding busses and trains through the boonies, I wonder what happens to their camera and sound operators as the "star" gets aboard and moves on. Does the crew travel in a separate car, does the bus stop to pick them up, etc? How real is what we're seeing?

Justine Shapiro: The crew is small and there is no "star" story on a Globe Trekker shoot. There is no glamour or celebrity vibe with this show.
What is so special about the GT shows is that you do see a lot of what the 5 of us on the crew experience...

Washington, D.C.: How many languages do you speak? and what are they?

Justine Shapiro: french and spanish

outside the beltway: Justine,

You've earned yourself a great job and you do it extremely well. I saw your South Africa program the other night. Who wrote it? More specifically, who's idea was it to end the program the way you did. The set-up and conclusion was more artful and touching, without an ounce of false sentimentality, than one is likely to see anywhere on television.

Justine Shapiro: thank you for your kind words.
again, the shows are not scripted so it wasn't written. the researcher will set up an itinerary based around festivals in the country and she will set up certain interviews (usually with locals as opposed to experts) and then much of the show unfolds naturally. we'll be sitting together at dinner and the waiter will tell us some great story and we'll decide to scrap what we had planned and do that instead. or if I'm sick, as I was in China, we decided to do the story of me visiting the acupuncture hospital. the show feels true because it is. which is why this job is such a blessing. there's no hair no make up (well sometimes) and if I"m tired or bored or irritated I feel comfortable being that on the show. Travelling can be tiring, boring and irritating... Many travel shows tend to glamorize the experience...
anyway... the ending was not set up in the South Africa show. Linda is an African woman, she was my nanny when I was growing up there and I continue to communicate with her by phone and letter.

Myerstown, Pa.: I am curious if you know what program is used to edit the show, because I really enjoy some of the filters used on the shows. By the way, I really like the theme song.

Justine Shapiro: GT are edited on AVID systems.
I agree the theme music is great. it's an original composition. i think they sell the cd online

Bergen, Norway: Hi Justine

I really enjoy watching Globe Trekker. Right now, I'm really tempted by the thought of adventuring down to Mali to see the Dogon escarpment. Since you have been down there do you have any advice to give?

Also, how can I get a hold of your production "Promises"?


Justine Shapiro: if you check our web site
www.promisesproject.org you will find under the heading Distribution a list of foreign distributors and I believe there is one in Norway.
Mali is a beautiful wonderful country and the Dogon escarpement is impressive. Advice: make sure you don't go when there are wind storms (if poss) and bring photos of yourself and family to show to the familes there. They love to see where you come from. Postcards from your country also make a great gift. mali is a very poor country so you may want to check with a health organization to see if you can bring in some medicines or supplies if you are travelling into the interior

Melbourne, Australia: Hello Justine, big fan. Would just like thank you for the quality entertainment that you give all your fans. Can I ask where would you suggest that someone that wants to travel like myself must travel to. Thanx. From Ben.

Justine Shapiro: thank you ben.
i know this sounds funny but most of us have not really explored our own environs. Australia is such an incredibly beautiful and massive country I wonder if there might not be places there to explore... otherwise... India is a place that turns all your notions upside down and wakes one up to the many other ways of perceiving time, life, spirituality.

Singapore: Just wanted to let you know that I had the biggest crush on you when you were hosting Lonely Planet! You were certainly the best host with a balance of humor and respect for the locals!

Justine Shapiro: very sweet. well, i'm coming back. I'll be shooting 2 GT shows this year. I was away for a couple of years b/c i just had a gorgeous little boy.
thank you

New York, N.Y.: How are the children from Promises doing? Have you stayed in touch with them?

Justine Shapiro: The children from PROMISES are alive and well. Faraj (the Palestinian boy from the Deheishe Refugee Camp) has suffered the most in terms in having relatives killed in the recent violence. FOr more info on the kids and the film visit our web site www.promisesproject.org
there is a header FAQ (frequently asked questions) with an outline on each kid in the film.
I am currently trying to raise money to bring some of the Palestinian kids out to the Bay Area to study English and pursue an undergraduate education. Many of the kids in the camp are hungry to continue their studies and it is very difficult for them to do so given the current environment.

Chicago, Ill.: Justine,
First off, I must express my deep admiration for your presentation and craft – I truly enjoy and understand more clearly any of the trips I have seen you present! Furthermore, your sense of motivation to not just “have an experience” but to connect with others from different cultures makes a difference. I am considering taking graduate-level courses in Inter-Cultural Studies and to continue traveling. Do you have any advice for those of us who are inspired by sharing the common bond of human need and understanding? By the way, what I have done just this past weekend is to show your South Africa trek to a group of friends – one of whom is leaving for Cape Town shortly to live there for one year. We all enjoyed it immensely. For some reason, I cannot get out of my head that image of you riding an ostrich….

Also, with the increasing intensity of travel around the world, do you see cultures losing their distinctiveness with more and more outside contact? How can we be sensitive to cultures without destroying them in the process of getting to know the people?

Thanks again for your work with Globe Trekker and Elsewhere. Maybe meet you “out there” someday.

Tom L.

Justine Shapiro: Thank you so much for you kind word. I think that the way to connect with other "distinct" cultures is to go with an open heart and spend time with the locals. Many travellers spend time within the glass bubble of the resort or the hotel or the US organized tour. People are the same the world over and the only way to experience this (and thus, believe this) is to spend time with the people.
I always bring photos of my home, my family, my sister, my son, etc. People everywhere relate to the importance and connection of family and it creates an immediate bond.
As far as being sensitive to other cultures... it is very painful to travel to remote areas and find Coca Cola signs and cheesy Hollywood movies in place of local films. American Cultural Imperialism is strong the world over and many people resent us for this. Also many people buy into American Culture and you see these weird hybrids of indigenous peoples co-opting MTV clothing styles. One way to be sensitive is to think carefully about who is going to get your money. Eco-tourism is often a thinly veiled hack job. Eco-tours are supposed to be run by locals but most often they are not.

Lawrenceville, Ga.: Hi Justine,
My name's Kristin. I'm 15 and I had to watch one of your shows in Geography. This might sound nerdy, but I actually enjoyed it. (to a certain extent) Tell me, I think this was Vietnam, what was it like watching that woman kill that poor snake in front of you then you drink it's blood? I would've freaked out and tried to save the snake. But that's how they live and there's nothing I can do. HAHA. OK thanks.

Justine Shapiro: Hi Kristin. You don't sound nerdy at all. Actually, when I was in high school I was always in the "nerdy group" as opposed to the "cool group" or the "athletes group" or the "stoner Group". So I think nerdy is great...
anyway, you'd be amazed what you do Kristin when a camera is pointing at you and the fact is that many people do believe in the "enhancing" properties of snake blood so I had to try it. My philosophy is that if it ain't gonna kill me, I might as well try it.

New York, N.Y.: Hi Justine,

I love this show!! What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you on one of your treks?

Justine Shapiro: well the scariest thing was not on a GT shoot. I was camping in Baja California, high up in the mountains in the middle of no where and in the river beds where the cave paintings are.. and there was a flash flood at 11PM. That was friggin scary. The water rose so incredibly fast and there were about 8 of us and 8 mules backing up against the cave walls hoping the water would stop. It finally did at 5 AM. not fun.

Lakeridge, VA: With your enormous number of encounters with people of many cultures, why do you think at this point in history Americans have become a target both physically and in mere conversation, and many times in places where we once had very close ties?

Justine Shapiro: Just look at our record. The US has covertly or overtly toppled governments around the world for our own economic benefit. Sadly too many Americans get their sole news source from the USA Today or Fox TV News. These are poor sources of real information. US foreign policy has caused suffering the world over. Generally speaking, most Americans are not aware of how our power and policy adversly affects millions of people world wide.

Not necessary to post - note to Justine: I just wanted to let Justine know that she is the reason I decided to study abroad in Ecuador six years ago. I was trying to decide where to study abroad and my dad rented me the Lonely Planet tape. I was hooked! It was one of the best decisions I ever made and I absolutely love that country! Your series is the best - keep up the good work!

Justine Shapiro: O my goodness. Thank you for writing. So many people have made great impact on me and inspired me and I am more than touched to hear that our Ecuador show was an inspiration to you.
besitos y abrazos.

Chicago, IL: Hi Justine,
A cultural question - With the increasing intensity of travel around the world, do you see cultures losing their distinctiveness with more and more outside contact? How can we be sensitive to cultures without destroying them in the process of getting to know the people?

Justine Shapiro: good question, major dilemma. honestly, there are many many times when we are shooting when I ask myself if we should be shooting this? There have been times when we've been in small local markets or villages when I've asked the show's producer not to identify the location. You are absolutely right to bring concern to this forum. Guide books, travel shows can bring income to poor areas but they can also ruin them. It is a huge dilemma and in some way I feel more comfortable making GT shows in westernized countries that have already given over to tourism. I'll travel to developing countries but it is a much more challenging show to make. How to show something without ruining it.

The other point is that few Americans travel. Something like only 20% of Americans have valid passports (this statistic is not exact and I think it's even lower). So my one comfort is that most of the people watching the show aren't going to go where we are going... I'm offering a window into a world.

Encino, CA: Hello, Justine. I was wondering if you and the crew ever get lost. I love watching all the hosts look baffled while trying to learn directions. Do you guys ever find yourself travelling in the opposite direction?

Justine Shapiro: yes, all the time. especially when in countries where we don't speak the language. and we include many of these mishaps in the show. it's the nature of travel.. getting lost and then realizing that you end up some place of equal interest. going with the flow.

Singapore: I heard from someone who worked with you in this program that you dont like driving, hiking, walking, being on the train or bus, or on a plane? Is that true?

Justine Shapiro: that's so funny. yes. perhaps i shouldn't reveal this and destroy the magic but i really don't like the actual travel part of travel. I was in a plane crash in 1981 (a DC-10 World Airways crash at the Logan Airport in Boston) and that left me rather shy of plane travel and then I get incredibly sea sick on boats and in cars along windy roads. I LOVE trains and am usually okay in buses because there is so much going on in the buses to keep me distracted. i LOVE walking. I LOVE being outside. i LOVE using CAPITAL LETTERS.

Sterling, VA: I love to watch "Globetrekker." I try and catch repeats as often as possible also. However, some of the episodes look several years old on our local WETA station (either that or you have found some kind of Miracle-Gro for your hair). Do you know how old the oldest shows being broadcast are? How can I tell if I'm watching something relatively new?

Justine Shapiro: very funny.
basically the shows that are PBS (GLOBE TREKKER) are the first ones that were made. The licenses from those shows have expired. Those were the LONELY PLANET shows on TRAVEL CHANNEL. PBS is also now broadcasting the newest shows, the ones that never went to Travel Channel. So yeah, it's a bit of mish mash and my hair is there to confuse.

Dupont Circle: My best friend and I do annual New Year's excursions someplace outside of the U.S. Do you know of fun places that know how to put on a good New Year's Eve bash and offer many cultural ammenities?

Justine Shapiro: Vietnam. their new year's is called TET and I believe it's usually in Feb.
Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, etc) really knows how to party and then the landscape is unreal. If you venture into the interior you will find yourself in some of the most beautiful land.
Mexico is also a great place for fiestas... Mexico City and then of course the coastal beach areas...
There's so much to do , so little time

Capitol Hill: Hi Justine. You rock!

I absolutely loved your trips through Israel and Vietnam. Hey, if you were trek through a region of the U.S., where would you go? What would you do? I feel the need to do some exploring here in the U.S.--help me!


Justine Shapiro: I love travelling in the Southern part of the US because the culture is so distinct from Northern California culture where I was brought up. To trek through the US I would buy a small bus, wagon, RV something you can sleep in and drive around and go to small towns and visit the 4 Corners and then sell the vehicle.
You rock too.
PS. we'll be shooting in DC sometime this fall!

Arlington, VA: I have had the biggest crush on you for quite a while now (hope my wife isn't reading this! ;-) I know that you recently became a new mother. Of all the places you've visited, where is the best place you feel you've visited to live and raise a child? I recently saw a survey saying Scandinavia is the best. I know much of raising the child has to do with your role as a parent, but I was just wondering if some place stood out ot you. Your thoughts? Thanks.

Justine Shapiro: for me the best place to raise a child is near ones family and I am very fortunate to live within minutes of extended family. True in Scandinavia they give women a very generous maternity leave. The US is very backwards in its maternity policy. My kindest regards to you and to your wife!

Justine Shapiro: out of time. my baby just woke up from his nap. i am so appreciative of your interest in our show and i apologize if i wasn't able to answer to all your questions. thank you so much for watching Globe Trekker. We make these shows for you. Truly. I hope to be back on line in the next few weeks and will try and answer more and more of your questions. I'll take some typing lessons in the meantime so i can answer faster!
I hope that you are all doing okay. I know times are uncertain right now. I wish that we may find the courage to have faith and trust and peace within so that we might all treat one another as kindly as possible, in the grocery line, on the highway, at the bank. Underneath it all, we are all the same. Kindness works a charm.
I also want to dispel any sense that I am a celebrity. I am a single mom, I live in a one-bedroom apartment, I am neither rich nor poor, and my dream is to continue to make documentary films (like PROMISES) that celebrate our common humanity.
So I'm a lot like you but I lucked out and got a great gig with Globe Trekker.

much love and many blessings to you all.

washingtonpost.com: That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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